EDCOM 2 Commissioner Senator Joel Villanueva flagged the shortage of teachers and the backlog of unfilled positions within the Department of Education, during the Senate committee on finance on the department’s proposed 2024 budget.
“There are 43,014 unfilled positions [in the Department of Education]. From 2022 to 2023, out of 46,000 unfilled positions, only 3,415 positions have been filled”, EDCOM 2 Commissioner Senator Joel Villanueve noted.
DepEd Undersecretary for Human Resource and Organization Development Gloria Jumamil-Mercado revealed that the live figures are actually higher. “Right now it’s 51,127 [unfilled positions]”, she said.
To address these challenges, Mercado pointed out that the DepEd in January was awarded the PRIME-HRM Bronze award from the Civil Service Commission, which enabled the Department to hasten the appointment process of its staff.
“We also have a special hiring program we’re going to launch next month. And this is a digital way of applying to the RQA (registry of qualified applicants) without human intervention, and I think this will be a very big help in the entire process”, Mercado continued.
During EDCOM 2 consultations, teachers lamented the difficulty of focusing on teaching because of other teaching-related or non-teaching or ancillary tasks assigned to them.
Teacher-student ratio lower than ideal
Villanueva cited an ADB study which found that the teacher-student ratio in the Philippines is greater than that of Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore, with more than 20 students per teacher.
Mercado noted that the ideal ratio for the DepEd is 30 students per teacher. “[To meet that ideal ratio], our shortage right now is 86,000, and for 2024, we have an allocation of 20,000. The ratio that we have currently is still 1:40”, she said.
Usec. Mercado explained that, for the past years, the Department has been receiving only 10,000 allocations every year. “It is only this year that we got 20,000”, she said.
Catch-up plan to address staffing woes
Citing figures from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Villanueva said that, from 2013 to 2017, an average of 1,500 teachers go abroad every year.
“Is DepEd capable of hiring enough teachers to address and minimize the [teacher shortage] and still continue to reach the target that we are looking for?”, Villanueva asked.
Mercado cited the different initiatives by the DepEd to address its hiring woes. “We are currently doing a study on school staffing standards, and other related studies so that we can really come up with a catch-up plan for the coming years. We actually have a program for teachers who go abroad – Sa Pilipinas Ikaw ang Ma’am and Sir (SPIMS). For this year, we have allotted 2,000 teachers for SPIMS”, Usec. Mercado explained.
An examination conducted by the Commission found that the plantilla positions of schools indicates uneven allocation of support staff among schools of the same size group.
“Can you submit to this committee a catch-up plan…how do we make sure that our programs [to address teacher shortages] continue?”, Villanueva pressed. The Senator also asked the DepEd to submit a detailed breakdown of unfilled teacher positions, by grade level, by specialization, and by locality.
“At the end of the day, [teachers] are the heart and soul of our education system. I’m ensuring that we have enough teachers – quality educators – to teach our young people”, Sen. Joel said.